Chapter 12 : Taken
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Harry looked at his watch again, confirming what he knew already; it was still too early to meet with Sapien.
“If you fancy getting away from this place, I’m sure Mum would be glad to see you for dinner at the Burrow,” said Ron from beside him as they walked along. “There’s loads of food left over.”
“No,” said Harry absently. “We need to meet the Dementor this evening.”
“Oh, right. I thought you could come back for that.”
“I’d rather not chance being late, especially since we put him off last night. Tell her I’d have liked to come, though?”
“Sure. Looks like I’ll have to face her alone then.”
“Well, Mum said I had to go back and make things up with Ginny. She says I’m not leaving school early unless I do.”
Harry smiled and nodded.
“She has a point,” said Harry. “I expect she’s just afraid of you turning into another Percy.”
“Excuse me, but I’m hardly as bad as that prat of a brother of mine!”
“You need your family, Ron. No matter what happens, you need to stick together.”
“Yeah, I know.”
They emerged from the same alley that Harry and Mrs Weasley had the evening before and turned towards Mrs Figg’s house.
“So, do you have any messages for me to take back?” asked Ron. “Hermione said Hedwig has been gone for a couple of days. I only ask because I know Mum wrote and told you all about the wedding.”
“I haven’t even opened her letter yet,” admitted Harry. “Did the wedding go okay?”
“Yes, it was fine.”
“Did Lupin turn up?” asked Harry. “Your Mum was worried about him, that’s all.”
“Yes, but he didn’t stay long, obviously. Tonks let him stay for the ceremony but took him back before the reception.”
Harry slowed and came to a halt. Ron continued forward a couple of steps but then stopped.
“What is it, Harry?”
“Why?” asked Harry coldly. “Why is it obvious he didn’t stay long?”
Ron swore under his breath.
“Erm,” said Ron, now shifting nervously from foot to foot and edging towards Mrs Figg’s house.
Harry waited, all the while fighting to control his anger.
“I shouldn’t have said,” began Ron. “You’re not supposed-”
“Clearly,” agreed Harry, cutting across him. “So, what happened to him?”
“He’s fine, Harry. Really.”
“Tell me,” demanded Harry.
“No, I can’t. I promised.”
“Haven’t you already broken that promise?”
“No, not entirely,” said Ron defensively, pushing up his sleeve to read a wrist-watch that wasn’t there.
“I really should be going, Harry,” he said, walking on towards his sanctuary at Mrs Figg’s. “I’m supposed to check in with Arrabella Figg and Floo home from there.”
Harry followed, wishing they had spoken earlier when Ron would have had no idea how to get back to Mrs Figg’s house on foot by himself.
Ron quickened his pace until they arrived, clearly very keen not to have a chance to be questioned further.
“I’m sorry, Harry,” said Ron, without looking at him. “I really didn’t mean to let anything slip.”
Ron pressed the doorbell.
Harry closed the front door and was about to go up to his bedroom to retrieve Mrs Weasley’s letter when he heard a noise coming from the kitchen. Harry had wondered if her letter might shed some light on Lupin’s condition.
A rather strange smell reached his nose. It was like a pungent combination of tar and fried tomatoes.
Curious, Harry walked past the stairs and opened the door. Harry wafted away the thick greenish smoke that hung in the air.
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief.
“Oh, it’s you, Harry. I was afraid your Aunt had come back early.”
The top of Hermione’s head bobbed up from the other side of the kitchen table as Harry walked further into the room.
“She’s going to have a fit,” noted Harry.
“Tell me about it,” said Hermione angrily, refolding a rag she was using to clean the floor with. “Ron, close the door after you. I don’t want the smell of all this to get into the rest of the house.”
Harry leaned back and pushed the door closed, observing that the entire back of the door, like most of the kitchen units, walls, ceiling and floor was caked in a foul smelling substance that had the consistency of thick treacle.
“Where’s Ron?” asked Hermione in surprise.
“He’s gone back to the Burrow,” said Harry. “He was in a hurry to leave actually, but at the time I assumed that was because of something I said.”
“What?” said Hermione, suddenly looking aghast. “Typical!”
“Um, so what happened here?”
“Ron decided it would be a nice surprise if he made you a birthday cake for tomorrow.”
Harry nodded and said, “Well that explains the baked beans and cake mix, but it doesn’t quite explain what they are doing all over the ceiling.”
Harry ventured another small step. The mixture had the curious property of being incredibly slippery underfoot until his weight was shifted. Then it became like glue and it became an effort to lift his feet off the floor.
“Ron thought he would hurry things along using a little magic. I’ve no idea what he did really, but nothing your Aunt has in the cupboard seems to shift this stuff. I swear I caught a bit of slime trying to get out from my bucket again.”
Hermione slipped as she tried to get up and groaned as she landed in yet more mess.
Harry carefully picked his way over, trying to avoid some of the sloppier patches and offered his hand to help pull her up.
“You’ll get as messed up as me,” warned Hermione.
“Come on,” said Harry.
Hermione reached up but pulled back at the last moment.
“Harry? What is it?”
“Here,” he said, wondering how she had read his mood so easily. “Let me help you up.”
“What did you say to Ron, Harry?”
Harry sighed and straightened up.
“I asked him why Lupin had to leave early when he attended the wedding.”
Hermione stared up at him for a long moment, apparently lost for words. Harry stared back, feeling mounting anger that she had kept so much from him.
“Harry, I,” was all she managed to say.
Hermione’s cheeks reddened and tears began to form in her eyes.
Harry withdrew his wand, choosing not to question why he felt so unaffected by Hermione’s obvious anguish.
Ron’s culinary creation resisted Harry’s first try to scurgify it away but his second more determined attempt was successful in vanishing the foul mixture. With another flick of his wand, Harry opened the windows and door wide and fresh air blew in, banishing the worst of the appalling smells.
The various pots and pans heaped into the sink were soon gleaming and flying back to their usual storage places and the empty jars, cans and packets that were strewn around were vanished.
Finally Harry looked down.
Hermione was still sitting on the floor, sitting in a neat circle of the last remaining cake mixture.
“Get up and I’ll finish,” Harry directed.
Hermione sniffed but shook her head.
Harry was in no mood to be patient and understanding with her now.
Hermione was picked up bodily and hung limply like a pathetic rag doll while Harry cleaned first the floor and then her clothes.
Hermione began to cry loudly, attempting to say, “No, leave me. I deserve it.”
“How did you get so much in your hair?” asked Harry as he slowly rotated her, vanishing the last of the mess. Finally he was finished and lowered her gently back down to the floor.
When it became clear that Hermione was just going to collapse down in a heap again, Harry kept her a few inches off the ground and levitated her out of the kitchen.
“I think we should have a quiet chat now,” Harry said gently, although Hermione flinched as if he had berated her.
Hermione nodded, her eyes quite closed.
“Living room or upstairs,” said Harry to himself. “Upstairs, I think.”
Harry released Hermione next to her bed, guiding her down and making sure she was safely propped against the mattress.
Hermione reached out and supported herself.
“I’m just going to check and see if Hedwig is back, okay?” said Harry. “Do you need anything?”
Hermione shook her head no.
“I won’t be a moment,” he promised, quickly returning to his bedroom.
As he feared, Hedwig had still not returned. He was beginning to grow a little worried about her, since he didn’t usually stay away on hunting trips this long. Harry had wondered if Pig had been annoying her, but if anything the tiny owl’s behaviour had improved immeasurably over the last few days.
Harry went over to his desk and picked up his unopened letter from Mrs Weasley. This had been the real reason he had left Hermione.
He tore the letter open and began to read.
“I just wanted to write and tell you the wonderful news before I finally turn in. You know, I had no idea when I left you the other night that I’d be whisked away to the wedding. Yes! It’s finally taken place.
“The ceremony was simply wonderful. I cried through the entire thing, of course, and-”
Harry skipped ahead and quickly scanned through the text looking for any mention of Lupin.
“It was rather a shame that Tonks took Remus away early, especially as he looked like he could do with feeding up. He paid me such a nice compliment about my hat too. Oh, Fred just interrupted me and insisted I said, Hi. Where was I? Oh, yes. Fleur looked simply radiant and-”
Harry reached the end of the letter but found no further mention of Lupin. At least he seemed to be okay.
Harry knocked gently on Hermione’s door and entered. Hermione was still sitting on the edge of the bed but had now stopped crying.
Harry closed the door and sat down on her trunk.
“Don’t be angry with me, Harry,” said Hermione in a tiny voice. “I couldn’t bare that as well.”
Harry sighed deeply.
“Tell me about Lupin.”
“He’s fine, honestly. He’ll be back to his normal self in a few weeks.”
Harry twisted around to face Hermione.
“Okay. So what happened to him?”
Hermione frowned and wiped her face.
“Ron didn’t tell you? I assumed he would.”
“No, he didn’t tell me a thing. To be honest, I didn’t let him tell me much about anything, but that was before he let slip about Lupin.”
“Oh. What time are we meeting Sapien?”
“Don’t worry about that. We’re not going to meet him until I get some answers.”
“But it’s important, Harry.”
“No,” Harry began, before he checked himself. “There’s plenty of time and besides, I’m sure he’ll wait for us.”
Harry decided that now was not the time to explain that he had his own reasons to delay the meeting.
It was a moment before Hermione said anything.
“You are going to hate me for not telling you sooner, Harry,” she began.
“No,” he responded at once, but she wasn’t listening. Hermione was looking intently down at her hands and Harry thought she was trying her level best to maintain her composure.
He was about to tell her not to bother, when she continued.
“I don’t know if you knew this, Harry, but the Ministry laid on extra protection for Muggle families this year. They hired several coaches to bring parents to King’s Cross and then take everyone home again. It meant that as many people as possible could have Auror cover. In the event, nothing happened but the threat was taken quite seriously.
“Some people used the Knight Bus, but there wasn’t room for everybody and we got a ride on one of the Ministry coaches that they had hired. They hadn’t had time to improve it magically, so it took a little while to get through the London traffic.
“Even so, we made good time and by early evening everyone else had been dropped off. We were last because Professor McGonagall didn’t want anyone else to know where we intended to stay for the holidays. The Order had set us up with a temporary holiday home, you see?”
Harry nodded silently.
“Anyway, after three trains and a rather exciting mini-cab ride, we finally arrived. Everything was fine for the first few days. It was a very remote location and we hardly saw another soul, but even so the Order checked in with us every day. It was usually Tonks and on the last Thursday we were there she persuaded Remus to join us for a day on the beach.
“The weather had been kind to us and we had such a wonderful time for those few days. I’d forgotten how much I missed Mum and Dad, but they were just what I needed after the last year.”
Hermione took a deep breath before continuing. Harry noticed Hermione’s hand was shaking as she brushed back her hair.
“Around four o’clock on the Thursday Mum and Dad said they would go back and start putting the dinner on. It was only about a hundred yards away from the cottage, but even so Remus insisted upon going with them.
“Tonks wanted to play a little more beach badminton, though. I was hopeless of course, and in the end Mum agreed to stay behind for one more game while Dad and Remus went back. In the end we only stayed about another half-an-hour, because the wind came up and it looked like rain later.
“It didn’t take us long to pack everything up and between us we carried everything back.”
Hermione swallowed loudly.
“We were almost at the cottage before we knew anything was wrong. There was a short stretch of long grass you had to go though but otherwise you could see for miles up and down the beach. The only place where the visibility was really impaired was when the path went through a gap in the cliff but that was deserted too, just like normal.
“We followed the path further along the top of the cliff until it dipped down. Then there was a sort of hedgerow. That-”
She paused and swallowed again.
“That was where two of them jumped out from behind the hedge and fired at us.
“If it hadn’t been for Tonks’ quick reactions I would have died, I’m sure of it. I fired back blindly but she got one and made the other run away.”
Harry reached out and placed his hand over hers.
“We found,” continued Hermione, but her voice tightened into nothing.
Harry got up and quickly sat down next to her on the edge of the bed, not lifting his hand.
She tried again, clearly determined not to stop.
“We found Remus on the path. He had been hit a few times but he’s well on the mend now. We found Dad in the hallway. He had entered the cottage first and gave the alarm. They think there were more of them waiting inside, but he must have put up a struggle.”
“Oh, Hermione,” breathed Harry.
“They said it was quick. He wouldn’t have suffered,” she managed to say before her voice broke.
Harry wrapped his arms around her. Hermione sniffed loudly and turned her head. Harry closed his eyes, at last feeling her pain and knowing she had more to tell.
“Crookshanks saved me the second time. He knew there was someone still in the house, you see? They were hiding under an invisibility cloak but he must have heard them because he jumped down at them from a high cabinet.
“I was rigid with fear, Harry. I knew I should go to Dad, but I was so scared of what I’d see. Tonks barged me out of the way and killed whoever it was under the cloak. Then she grabbed me and disapparated us both away to safety.”
“But, your Mum,” said Harry before he could stop himself.
“Tonks went back straight away.”
Harry waited, not wishing to break the long, terrible silence.
“T-The cloaked attacker couldn’t have been the last one after all. Tonks disturbed one as they checked to see if Lupin was dead or not. Dad’s body had been taken.”
“Why would they do that?” Harry asked, more to himself than Hermione.
“You think he might not be dead?”
“Well, there must be a chance.”
“No, Harry. The Order and the Ministry say that there is almost no chance he is still alive. Even if he was alive, he must be dead by now.”
“Um, what about your Mum?” Harry asked gently, swallowing his objections.
“She had been behind us when they opened fire. They think she had been hit by one of the curses aimed at Tonks and me. They don’t know what hit her, but she wasn’t dead. The Healers at St Mungos seemed quite at a loss what to do for her. None of the painkillers seemed to work. They just seemed to be hoping for a quick release.”
“Hardly Voldemort’s style,” Harry thought to himself.
“The worst thing was, she kept asking for Dad. They didn’t want her to give up, so they said she shouldn’t know. I spent our last hours together just lying to her.”
Harry closed his eyes and held her tightly.
“Then-” Hermione tried to continue. “Then-“
Harry didn’t need to hear.
“Shh. I know,” he said in a whisper. “You don’t need to say it.”
“No, Harry. You don’t understand.”
Harry opened his eyes and frowned.
“They came back. The Death Eaters came back.”
“They took her. They took her from the hospital during the night. She was being guarded by the Ministry as well. I overheard Professor McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt talking afterwards when they thought I was asleep.
"Professor McGonagall thought I may have been their intended target, but Kingsley thinks it was just part of a sick game. They just want to terrorise us.”
“I know you won’t have an answer for me. It’s just that if I don’t tell someone I’ll just go mad."
Harry meets the second memory of Dumbledore. Harry and Hermione agree to Sapien's final wish.
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